Lessons I've learned about dating in university

Here’s what I’ve discovered from my own rollercoaster of experiences.

Two happy young Black men walk down the street hand in hand and holding coffees. Photo: Uriel Mont

Let’s be real, dating is hard at the best of times. Even when the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing your hair just right, it somehow always feels like something—usually a puddle—is waiting just around the corner to dampen things a touch. That ‘puddle’ can be things like time, effort, coordination, patience and money. And when you mix in a social life and getting an education, it only gets more complicated. Luckily, I have some tips to help you out.  

Before I share my tried and tested advice, I want to preface this by saying that beyond what is dangerous to your safety (physical, mental, or emotional) there is no right way to date. Especially in university, where everything feels like walking on a different planet. These aren’t rules to live by, they’re just the things that I’ve learned.


Take it slow. Like, grandma-in-the-fast-lane slow.

I figured I’d get the simplest (and hardest to hear) one out of the way first. It seems like something that shouldn’t need to be said, considering that the “wait X amount of time before texting after a date” line has been drilled into our heads from every rom-com we’ve ever seen. However, it isn’t until you’re walking home from the most amazing date and your phone is already dinging in your pocket that you realize how much of a lie it really is. But before you agree to see them the very next day, take a moment to think about the speed of things.

We all want to skip the line sometimes—run back and redo the date 45 minutes later because it was that good—and that’s OK! Dating should be fun, and you should be excited to see the person you’re dating again. However, I can say from experience that giving all your time and energy to someone right away does not lead to a strong relationship. Fireworks, when left unattended, usually lead to general mayhem and at least a few injuries. I’m not saying you shouldn’t see them, but make sure you’re making time for you in the week.


Find a neutral space for the first few dates

I am a park girl through and through. Specifically, a dog park girl. There is no better way to find common ground with someone than to be surrounded by huge fluff balls running up to you and demanding your attention. I know, I know, it sounds contradictory! You’re supposed to be paying attention to your date or whatever. However, there are bound to be awkward moments, and there's no better way to fill those moments than to point out a particularly chubby golden retriever. (If you’re in the Halifax region, I recommend Point Pleasant Park.)

Seriously though, don’t be afraid to get outside and go for a walk, try a new café, or even just sit on a bench or blanket and talk. Being out in public is the safest way to get to know someone. It ensures that your safe spaces still belong to you (no one has to see your Maze Runner poster from fifth grade or your stuffed bunny), and that you always have a getaway route available in case they didn’t include that one controversial opinion on their dating profile. There's endless time to be disappointed by the way your date stacks their dishes in the sink, so save that experience for the future.


Group dates, group dates, group dates!

I cannot stress enough the merits of going on a date alongside one or more of your friends. These are a little trickier to arrange, but with a little planning they can happen and will be worth the stress. The date can be anything, like a group dinner, study session, or group hike. And don’t underestimate the simple activities like a movie night or a picnic. Just make sure there aren’t any allergies—finding out your date is allergic to gluten after spending an hour making sandwiches is something I don’t recommend.

Now look, I’m not suggesting group dates to imply that one-on-one dates are terrible. They’re not, and clearly they’re necessary for forming strong relationships. However, there are merits to taking your best friends out with you, especially in the beginning. Stress is reduced, awkward silences are lessened, and, again, there’s an escape route in case things start going south. Having someone you can kick underneath the table and flee with makes the situation a little more bearable, don’t you think?


Do you have any dating tips you’ve learned as a university student? Drop them below!